Over the past year Mike Brede has been on a very specific, and difficult, mission.
Ski each month of the year without driving more than 2.5 hours from Spokane.
At the beginning of August the Spokane resident completed that mission when he carved about 100 turns on lingering snow between St. Regis and the St. Joe River on the Idaho/Montana state line.
“I had to drag a couple logs out of the way,” Brede said.
Brede’s goal is an iteration of the more popular and common endeavor of catching turns all year.
By constraining himself to the Spokane-area Brede had to get creative. Unlike in the Cascades, the Spokane area has no glaciers and few permanent snow fields.
“Around here there are just a couple permanent snow fields,” Brede said. “And most of them on a hot year they will disappear.”
He added, “Once you get to June, July and August then you have to start thinking.”
And start hiking.
Brede became very comfortable hiking with skis on his back. He got to the point where he could hike from the Beehive Lake trailhead to Beehive Lake, with skis, in just over an hour.
The local turns all year idea was born in September when Brede and his wife, Sarah Brede, visited the the Up Up Lookout in the Lolo National Forest. The day before they hiked in it snowed. So the two decided to bring skis.
The duo skinned up the trail and caught some turns off Gold Peak.
The seed of a plan was planted.
“After that I thought maybe this is possible to ski a full year sequentially within a few hours of Spokane,” Brede said.
Then in October, the Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area got 2 feet of snow in a freak storm. Brede and his skiing partner Larry Banks skinned up the runs. Suddenly Brede had two of the harder snow months in the bag.
“That’s basically when I said I’m going to go for it,” he said.
Through the winter finding skiing was no problem. But as June got closer and closer Brede wondered if he might fail.
The snow gods were on his side, though. He found himself skiing fresh powder in June near Beehive Lake in the Selkirks.
“I never got skunked where I couldn’t ski at all, luckily,” he said. “The last day of Beehive was pretty close.”
Brede skied near Beehive three times. He also went to the Cabinet Mountains in Montana and the Bitterroot Range.
He used satellite imagery to look for lingering snow and drew upon his knowledge of local mountains and weather patterns.
If nothing else the exercise showed him just how much adventure is easily accessed from Spokane.
And Brede often found himself startling summer-minded hikers.
“I frequently ran into hikers who weren’t expecting there to be snow in the mountains,” he said. “I got a lot of weird looks especially coming up and down Beehive.”
Brede’s neighbors became used to seeing him loading his skis into his truck on 90-degree days.
Although his goal is complete, Brede doesn’t plan to stop skiing anytime soon. If he can find worthwhile snow in September, he’ll be there.
“I always had fun,” he said. “It never felt like I was doing it just to check a box.”